A day in the life: Lisa Stansbie

The Leeds School of Arts dean believes good management means not being precious

How long have you been in your job?

I’ve been at Leeds Beckett University since 2015.

What is it about your job that gets you out of bed in the morning?

I like the unpredictable nature of the job and the ability to be able to make a difference to student and staff experience.

What’s the first thing you do when you get into work?

In “normal” times the first thing I do is have a shower because I run to work (and back at the end of the day) then coffee and breakfast looking at my diary to remind myself of the day ahead. The run to work gives me quiet time and space to contemplate the day ahead and the run home is a great unwind.

I often mull over challenges and ideas on my runs.

What’s the best thing about your job?

Seeing large-scale projects come to life that have a real impact on the staff and student experience.

The recent £80m Leeds School of Arts Building is a great an example of this; the building offers bespoke state-of-the-art facilities in film, music-performing arts and fashion. I also like the interaction with people, sharing ideas and developing projects… we spend a lot of our lives at work, so interaction with people is so important.

And the worst?

Sometimes it’s difficult to switch off, as in my role it isn’t always ‘standard’ working hours.

Leeds School of Arts


Your number one most vital prop/tool/piece of equipment?

My obvious answer is probably my mobile phone, but equally vital are my trainers (the wrong footwear would quickly ruin my quiet decompression time).

How did you get into your job?

I haven’t taken a typical route into HE management. I went travelling in the US after studying my fine art degree and when I returned to the UK, I didn’t know what to do and signed up for a PGCE Secondary in art and design. I found I loved teaching: the planning, organising, thinking on my feet, challenges and every day being different. I liked the fact that art and design was a subject that any pupil could get involved with and some of my proudest moments from teaching are the work I did with pupils with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties, who often viewed my art sessions as an outlet. As a secondary school teacher, I worked in both public and state schools then went to work in further education, then moved into universities while studying for a PhD part-time. Teaching in a secondary school can be a very challenging environment, but I think it gives you skills for life! Unusually I am also a graduate of the school I am now dean of, so I have a particularly personal relationship and investment in the Leeds School of Arts at Leeds Beckett.

“Everything works better when people believe in what they’re doing.”

What is it about your personality that makes you suitable for the role?

Being in charge of an arts school you have to have a deep belief and affinity with the variety of creative practices you are championing, while also maintaining a steady ship. This plays into my organised nature and utilises my risky creative side. I’m also calm in difficult situations, love a challenge, am humorous and honest. Crucially, I’m not precious about claiming ownership and I like to give those around me opportunities to be part of decision-making – everything works better when people believe in what they’re doing. Developing management skills can take time and I’ve found the most challenging and testing times are where I’ve learned the most.

Which five words sum up your typical day?

Days are not so typical in the current climate, but they still involve creativity, discussion, care, listening and reflection.

If you weren’t in this role, what would you be?

For someone like me there’s an inevitability that all roads eventually lead to being an artist – it’s who I am, whatever else I might be doing.

Professor Lisa Stansbie is dean of the Leeds School of Arts

You might also like: A day in the life: Julia Porter

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